Physiological adaptation in noncompetitive rock climbers: good for aerobic fitness?

Angelo Rodio, Luigi Fattorini, Alessandro Rosponi, Filippo M Quattrini, Marco Marchetti
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2008, 22 (2): 359-64
The present investigation aimed to establish whether noncompetitive rock climbing fulfills sports medicine recommendations for maintaining a good level of aerobic fitness. The physiological profile of 13 rock climbers, 8 men (age, 43 +/- 8 years) and 5 women (age, 31 +/- 8 years) was assessed by means of laboratory tests. Maximal aerobic power (VO2peak) and ventilatory threshold (VT) were assessed using a cycloergometer incremental test. During outdoor rock face climbing, VO2 and heart rate (HR) were measured with a portable metabolimeter and the relative steady-state values (VO2 and HR during rock climbing) were computed. Blood lactate was measured during recovery. All data are presented as mean +/- SD. VO2 was 39.1 +/- 4.3 in men and 39.7 +/- 5 in women, while VT was 29.4 +/- 3.0 in men and 28.8 +/- 4.6 in women. The VO2 during rock climbing was 28.3 +/- 1.5 in men and 27.5 +/- 3.7 in women. The HR during rock climbing was 144 +/- 16 b.min in men and 164 +/- 13 b.min in women. The aerobic profile was classified from excellent to superior in accordance with the standards of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The exercise intensity (VO2 during rock climbing expressed as a percentage of VO2peak) was 70 +/- 6% in men and 72 +/- 8% in women. Moreover, the energy expenditure was 1000-1500 kcal per week. In conclusion, noncompetitive rock climbing has proved to be a typical aerobic activity. The intensity of exercise is comparable to that recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine to maintain good cardiorespiratory fitness.

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